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CIO  February 2001

CIO February 2001

Subject:

Re: Acceptable Use policies

From:

"David Bantz (UA)" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 23 Feb 2001 16:40:08 -0900

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (139 lines)

The intent of either of these prohibitions [re-capped at end of this
message] is not that clear to me from the exerpts alone.  Without more
explicit clarification (which may be in other parts of the cited AUPs) it's
almost certain that alleged violators of these policies would challenge
their validity or applicability.

The Redwoods exerpt,read literally, seems to prohibit visiting any web site
without obtaining authorization or approval.  Does the institution really
expect to enforce that to any extent?  If not, what is the remaining force
of the prohibition?  Perhaps web sites which do not themselves implement any
authorization may be assumed to have "authorized" and/or "approved" any and
all persons; in that case the prohibition reduces to not circumventing
access controls.

Both exerpts categorize game playing, pornography or 'audult sites,' &
personal or commercial use as "not acceptable" uses (because they are
declared to be outside the bounds of academic inquiry).  Ignoring the
ill-defined and inherently blurry line between much academic inquiry and
personal use (i.e., reading widely in areas that may turn out to be relevant
to your scholarship or research), this prohibition appears to rule out, for
example, anthropological or sociological studies of computer game players,
similar studies of pornography or hate speech or the people who visit such
sites (I know two individuals who trace links between various hate &
supremicist groups and more "legitimate" groups and have, of course, used a
good deal of the hate group literature to do so).  Perhaps it prohibits
tracking criminal or predatory behavior (as a colleague has done on behalf
of several criminal cases against sexual predators), or the use of
role-playing or simulation games for learning, such as the award winning
Fugawiland or Systeme D or various historical role-playing games.

One approach would be to write into the prohibitions execeptions for all the
legitimate uses of resources which may also be used for frivolous,
destructive or even criminal purposes.  Another approach would be to step
back and ask "What is the institution's true interest in content-based
restrictions on access to information resources?"  Why should the
institution prohibit or restrict accesss to information?

I've heard some answers to those questions which are unpersuasive:

- "Pornography and/or games use too many resources": restricitions on the
amouont of shared resources are both more justifiable and easier to
implement technically; content restrictions are a poor stand-in for
resource-use restrictions (such amount of storage, bandwidth, paper,
seat-time, or any other scarce or expensive shared resource).

- "Personal use - or pornography - or racist speech - or some other use - is
illegal":  While laws vary from one place to another, when I've checked more
carefully, I've found few absolute prohibitions against any of those
(actually I've found none, but I haven't looked that hard).  Some
pornography (especially involving minors) is illegal, but a lot is not.
Similarly, a lot of racist, sexist, jingoist, hate-mongering, and otherwise
dispicable or moronic forms of expression are not illegal in free countries.
If your institution wishes to develop stricter standards (higher standards
of acceptability; lower standards of tolerance) that should of course be the
responsibility of and outcome of a much broader process involving reflection
on the basic mission and values of the institution.  It surely is not a
matter to be snuck into an educational institution as part of a technology
acceptable use policy!

- "Public resoures (for state-supported institutions) - or scarce
educational resoureces generally - used for such purposes diminish the
proper educational and research functions for which resources are intended":
Wasteful, frivolous, and stupid activities consume resources better used on
productive, serious, and wise activities.  Encourging the latter at the
expense of the former is responsible.  But is globally categorizing
activities into these two buckets and strictly prohibiting the bad ones an
effective or reasonable tactic?  Nearly all of us are tempted at times, but
most higher ed institutions are far too diverse to make this work.  I've had
faculty demand that students in labs be prohibited from using e-mail since
that was - in their view - a frivolous activity diverting students from the
assignments made by that instructor; another respected faculty member
submitted a list of usenet newsgroups that needed to be blocked as a waste
of resources (no matter that it would take more technical resources to
define and implement selective blocking than would be saved); I cannot count
how many times I've been advised that faculty in [fill in the blank]
disciplines do not require nearly as much support for information technology
as the faculty in [fill in another blank].  All of these are seriously
intended resource allocation judgments.  They are in conflict with one
another because individual judgments of relative worth conflict - sometimes
profoundly.  We should welcome serious public debate and informative
descriptions or analyses of different use of IT, but adopting one or another
set of judgments to restrict others' use by fiat seems a recipe for
unrelenting conflict.  In many (though not all) cases, it is also
impractical.

So do I advocate a free-for-all?  Not quite.

- Responsibile use of shared resources, however, does not reduce simply to a
list of prohibited and permitted activities.  The relevant category
distinctions governing responsible use of shared IT resources are not
"games" versus "learning" or "lewd" versus "decent" or "scholarship" versus
"amusement."  Relevant categories include "fair share" versus
"disproportionate share", "collaboration" versus "interruption", "respecting
privacy" versus "undermining privacy", or "taking precautions" versus
"reckless".  This is, of course, not a definitive list.

- Educate users concerning their responsibilities and about inherent hazards
of IT.  View lab computers, printers, and bandwidth as "free" because you're
not charged?  Here's the budget, how it is consumed, and examples of
reasonable use.  Concerned about confidentiality of your files?  Perhaps you
should understand and use encryption.  Want to vent to others?  Post to the
the proper venue (newsgroup or mailing list) or face the consequences.
Think you'd like to send your dissertation to 400 of your closest friends?
Don't expect to use the lab's free printing service.  Think copyright is
irrelevant to what's on your computer?  Think again...

- Promulgate and seriously enforce only restrictions and prohibitions you
will honestly enforce.  (In line with point above, provide the rationale to
encourage voluntary compliance.)

----- Original Message -----
From: "Thomson, Jim" <[log in to unmask]>
...
| Internet and its resources are provided to support educational activities,
| including research and academic inquiry. Use for other purposes is not
| acceptable. Examples of these purposes include game playing, visiting
"adult
| sites," personal, commercial, or illegal usage. Unauthorized or not
approved
| access to any computer system on the Internet is expressly forbidden....
|
| While it has not been tested yet it also was not challenged by our
faculty....
|
| Jim Thomson                College of the Redwoods

----- Original Message -----
| From: Kent Maharaj [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
| ...we have a clause
| that states baldly that our computing resources are not to be used
| for pornography, hate literature, and racist material. We do not
| attempt to define these, and there is not explicit objection to that
| as it stands. The question has been raised, however, as to how, for
| instance, a faculty member is doing research in one of these
| subjects, can be excepted from the policy.
|
| Have others found a way of addressing this apparent conflict, without
| weakening the intent of prohibition?...

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